There is no doubt that Missouri junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert has first round tools.
He demonstrated his live arm, mobility and accuracy to all levels of the field in last night's loss to Iowa in the Insight Bowl.
The 6-5, 235 pound Gabbert threw for 434 yards and a touchdown in the loss. He also rushed the ball on several occasions, including for a 7-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
He also threw two troubling interceptions, however, and accumulated his eye-popping yardage total by attempting 57 passes.
Gabbert's first interception came in the endzone with 28 seconds remaining in the half. In Gabbert's defense, he made the correct read, fired a reasonably accurate post to wideout Jerrell Jackson (failed to lead him) that Iowa cornerback Shawn Prater was able to disrupt as the ball came in. The tipped ball was then intercepted by closing linebacker Brett Greenwood.
His second interception was simply a terrible decision late in the 4th quarter. Gabbert, rolling to his left, attempted a late soft pass to wideout Wes Kemp, who was attempting to block Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde. Hyde was facing Gabbert and in front of Kemp when the ball was released, making it an easy interception that Hyde was able to return 72 yards for the go-ahead (and as it turned out winning) points with 5:40 remaining in the game.
Performances like last night's are why scouts have to be cautious when projecting spread quarterbacks to the NFL. Gabbert's physical tools are impressive. He may very well have the skill set to be successful in the pros. However, in this offense in which he takes essentially every pass out of the shotgun, he's allowed to scan the field and make relatively simply throws most of the time. The vast majority of Gabbert's yardage last night came on timing routes 8-15 yards downfield. If asked to drop back from center, Gabbert will have less time to scan the field before he has to throw the ball and he'll have more complicated routes (and defenses against them) to read.
In other words, he'll be asked to make tougher decisions in less time.
Considering the value of the quarterback position, it is admittedly a projection that a team in the first round of the 2011 draft would certainly make should Gabbert leave early.
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